Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

At the presscon for the UFL @Panggo's Grill and Restaurant

At the presscon for the 2013 UFL league opening at Panggo's Grill and Restaurant at Tomas Morato, QC. 

This photo started out as me with the Spanish players. Then Misagh Bahadoran joined in claiming that he is Spanish as well since he learned how to speak it after many hours of listening to Angel Guirado. So there!

With Ayi Aryee, Lawrence Obinna and Yves Ashime.

With Chris Greatwich (who was in serious mode) and OJ Porteria who were the representatives of Kaya.

2013 United Football League preview: the challenge of change

The challenge of change.
by rick olivares

With the Philippine football landscape constantly shifting, the UFL is not immune to these changes. And if there is a line that will describe this league season, we will have to borrow a line from that Bob Dylan classic that says,  “the times they are a changing”.

There’s the usual player movement, the coaching carousel, and the emergence of new faces. With all these changes, the question is, what team can get its act together the soonest and make an early run?

Change begins from the top
Four of the 10 Division One clubs made changes to the people manning the sidelines.

During the PFF Smart National Club Championship, one could see clubs like Global, Kaya, Nomads, and Loyola still adjusting to the coaching changes as well as the new faces. All four coaches will bring different philosophies to their teams.

Global (2012 season: Champion 13-3-2)
OUT Dan Palami (but he slides back into his familiar role as team manager and owner)
IN Brian Reid as head coach

The Scottish football great is arguably the biggest coaching name in Philippine football to date. Brought in to help the club especially for its AFC President’s Cup campaign later this year, Reid’s biggest task is to keep this juggernaut going. Easily, they are the cream of Philippine club football having garnered the lion’s share of silverware in the last three years. They surrendered their UFL Cup but annexed the league title by season’s end. Reid’s appointment also hopes to bring a close to the coaching rigodon of this club that has seen four changes from Frank Muescan to Graeme MacKinnon to Edwin Cabalida to Dan Palami in the last year and a half.

Global’s lineup from the past season all the way to the recently concluded UFL Cup was deep from the starting eleven all the way to the bench. But they discarded a lot of them including national player Demetrius Omphroy and super subs Kevin Capolei and Fidelis Nnabuife. Defender Juani Guirado is back in Spain and that has given other players more playing time if not chances to shine. It is interesting to what Brian Reid will do with this leaner but no less dangerous club. Look to Carli de Murga to become a scoring force for Reid.

Kaya (2012 season: 2nd 13-3-2)
OUT Kale Alvarez
IN Maur Rozen

Rozen’s appointment as head coach comes after talks with former Azkals head coach Simon McMenemy did not progress. Rozen, an Uruguayan replaces the youthful Kale Alvarez who did well on an interim basis for the club steering them to a second place finish in the league and a quarterfinals berth in the UFL Cup. There have been no big name signings for Kaya other than the inclusion of defensive back Janrick Soriano who will shore up the spotty defense at the back. Soriano has excellent pedigree as he won starting slots and titles with Global and Pachanga. Rozen lost a lot of big names from Jason Sabio to Prince Boley as well as he looks to make do with his holdovers.

The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” applies to this club. The lineup changed more by subtraction than by addition. Jason Sabio is gone as is Lexton Moy who was highly influential in the middle (as was Boley). Adrian Semblat is now with Nomads as well. Like Global, Rozen will promote other players like Junior Muñoz who hardly got any playing time last season under Alvarez.

Based on Kaya’s recent play and the demotion of Anton Ugarte and Toshi Hosoe to the bench, it has become pretty obvious that OJ Porteria will become their most influential player. But football isn’t about one man. Look for this club to build on its huge breakthrough win against Loyola in the PFF Smart National Club Championship. If they can replicate that game and apply it to every fixture, Kaya will be right up to the final bell slugging away.

Loyola (2012 season: 3rd 11-4-3)
OUT Kim Chul So
IN Vincent Santos

For all the firepower and big names on their lineup it is disappointing for their management and fans that this club has not won any major silverware in the last year and a half. They have done well but have always come up short.

The ascension of former national player Vince Santos as head coach looks to solve the communication problems the club had with former coach Kim Chul So.

The question many ask is his experience. Does he have enough of it to steer this team to a title? They lost Anto Gonzales back to Pachanga and he came up huge for the Sparks last season. In return, they picked up former national striker Freddy Gonzalez who has yet to blend well with this team and former Pachanga defender Jalsor Soriano. Longtime Kaya icon Armand Del Rosario is in the lineup and will provide this team with veteran smarts and leadership. Del Rosario was in superb shape during the cup while with Kaya. If he can maintain that form then he will be a huge addition to Loyola. Gonzalez bombed out with Pachanga during UFL Cup play. If he can come in superb shape and provide another scoring threat up front, Loyola will be difficult to beat. Defenders cannot simply knock down Phil Younghusband now because they will have to contend with multiple scoring threats.

The additions of these players give Loyola flexibility to put players around. It’s allowed them to place Phil Younghusband in the middle where he has thrived a as a distributor for forwards like Mark Hartmann and Chad Gould. The move has made Loyola more fluid in its attack. However as always, their Achilles’ Heel is their defense.

For Vince Santos is to mold this team into championship form, they have to ratchet up their defense and to come out strong every time.

Nomads (2012 season: 7th 4-7-7)
OUT Michael Denison
IN John Jofre

When talking about challenges, for Nomads it’s all about fielding a proper team of players. It’s mostly expat club who are all full time business professionals who are top officials of different multinationals. So that means practices let alone games make it impossible to field a complete roster.

But no excuses. After their inaugural stint in Division One football, they know what the league is all about. Jofre comes in with a football pedigree and makes him another huge Scottish signing in the UFL.

Nomads made a name for itself as a tough team – solid in the back and tough in the middle with Phil Connolly. If Connolly is healthy, the forwards will find themselves with some forward balls to latch on to. But the club cannot entirely depend on one man. Look to Selu Lozano to provide more toughness for this club that is sorely in need of it. However, the onus is on Jofre to get their slick passing midfield to dominate and provide deep threats.

Holding patterns: making do with what we have
Six of the 10 Division One clubs opted to not make changes at the top. And more than that, they have kept their lineups mostly intact with one or two choice additions. However, perhaps, that is an understatement.

Stallion (2012 season: 4th 8-5-5)
How does this club build on its UFL Cup title? Well, they added a little star power with the addition of Daniel Matsunaga (Pachanga), Fabio Ide (Sta. Lucia), and Andrew Wolff (Sta. Lucia). Don’t think that the three were merely added to give the girls something to cheer for as the three are good footballers. Wolff, the Philippine Volcano player, showed his skills during last year’s Clear Dream Match.

But what a build up for this team that has seen its metamorphosis from a strictly Iloilo-based club to a more cosmopolitan side with its Korean players (based in Iloilo City) and Spanish additions from International de Madrid. They have simply gotten better with every tournament and that culminated in a UFL Cup title.

What Nierras did was to add a few more weapons without sacrificing for quality. There’s the speedy Prince Boley from Kaya who will help up front while Jerome Etoundi, the former Global keeper, will backstop stud netminder Wilson Muñoz.

This team is already darn solid their foreign players complementing top local players in forward Ruben Doctora Jr., Bervic Italia, and Muñoz. The challenge for Nierras, it’s just making sure that everyone gets their playing time and chemistry down pat.

Air Force (2012 season: 5th 7-4-7)
That league record sure sounds symmetrical -- 747. This is a team in transition not to mention in a flux. After the high of winning the 2011-12 UFL Cup, they fell by the wayside in league play and the ensuing 2012 UFL Cup. This proud club also saw its longtime icon Chieffy Caligdong move to Green Archers United.

There have been rumors of internal strife and dissension but at the end of the day, Air Force is coming to play with key additions. They add former Stallion players Vince Braga, Antonio Albor, and Francis Gustilo who saw their playing time plummet with the arrival of the Koreans and Spaniards. They will want to prove themselves. 

The biggest and most obvious changes in Air Force will be at forward and at goal. With Yanti Bersales finally hanging up his boots, Vince Braga, who can play multiple positions will play alongside Araneta. The other is the departure of longtime netminder Tats Mercado who made a huge name for himself during his epic stand against Loyola in the 2011 UFL Cup where he stopped 26 shots. In his place is Kenneth Dolloso who has lived a semi-charmed kind of life. He won championships with Global and with the old Pachanga before tending Pasargad’s nets last season. He left PSG when he thought that there would be a reunion of his old Pachanga team in Sta. Lucia. When the “reunion” did not materialize, Dolloso, without a home, made his way to Air Force where the team has once more become proudly a homegrown and Illonggo club.

The challenge for second year head coach Sgt. Edzel Bracamonte is to instill that confidence and belief that they can still be an elite football club.

Pasargad (2012 season: Last season 6th 7-3-8)
The change in Pasargad is obvious as they are now known as “PSG”. One can make all the Paris St. Germain and Presidential Security Group jokes about the acronym but no one is laughing because of the prowess of this club. They came on strong in the league during the second round and their run to the finals of the PFF Smart National Club Championship is testament to their ability.

PSG is moving to a more homegrown and Filipino club but until that happens, given the loss of Shayan Jafari Dastjerdi, Masood Shahdideh, and Ken Dolloso, this club’s success will be dependent on the play of brilliant midfielder Hamed Hajimehdi and defenders Reza Amirkhizan and Jaham Taher. If these three can keep their heads in the ballgame (as does goal keeper Reza Ataei), they’ll be a top team. The same goes for Charles Ujam who plays well when the spirit moves him. He’s like the Mark Hartmann of PSG – tall, rangy, tracks back well, and can pass. But the key as always is consistency and spirit. Just like the rest of the team.

Emmanuel MBata is a good addition up front to replace Shayan but the loss of Masood will hurt too. MBata and Promise Jolomi are not – at least just yet – the scoring machines expected.

Emotion is never a problem for head coach Esmail Sedigh’s players. It’s just reining in their emotions and playing with focus that is key.

Green Archers United (2012 season: 8th 3-5-10)
No team undertook a more serious manpower build-up than GAU. Beginning cup play, this team added former Global stalwart Ayi Aryee, Nomads defender Dominic Mensah, Loyola defender Lawrence Obinna, FEU midfielder Sean Lee, and Chieffy Caligdong (who came on board beginning the PFF Smart National Club Championship).

The style of play went up with their addition and it resulted in a fourth place finish in the UFL Cup and a semifinals berth in the PFF Smart National Club Championship. In both those tournaments, GAU flamed out in the end casting a pall on their aspirations. But if anything, those setbacks will only whet their appetite for silverware and in league play, they will be a dark horse contender.

For head coach Rodolfo Alicante, the challenge is to find consistency in his players. Tating Pasilan is a dangerous scorer but is mostly inconsistent. Jon Melliza, when he returns to the fold in the March transfer window after playing for FEU in the UAAP, will help. Aryee was superb as was Lee. But with the arrival of Caligdong both players looked lost in the shuffle. And such, their central midfield play suffered. For Lee and Aryee to be effective, they need their touches. But when you have excellent wing players such as Arnie Pasinabo and Caligdong, the touches will be limited.

If they can find a merry solution to their midfield play then this team could win it all.

Army (2012 season: 9th 3-4-11)
With all the Philippine military teams struggling in club play, Army has mostly kept its head above water. More so than Navy that got sunk to Division Two.

Because of the structure of the military clubs, they are in no position to recruit except for military duty. And that hurts them. With an aging club, the challenge  for coach Sgt. Ricky Cain is how to get the most out of a club that lost sparkplug Champ Baron while picking up no one of exceptional talent who can help.

It falls then to its pool of national players in Boogie Margarse, Roel Gener, Ric Becite, and Eddie Sacapaño to hold the fort.

Without being cold about it, Army must raise its game or face the specter of relegation.

Pachanga (2012 season: Division Two champions)
You will have to do a double take on that – Division Two champions. Because this is not that Pachanga team. It’s Diliman using Pachanga’s name after they purchased the club from previous owner Freddy Gonzalez. The only Pachanga holdovers are defender Yves Ashime and midfielders Ousseneyou Diop and Boyet Cañedo who are all solid contributors on the Bob Salvacion coached team. This league play sees the return of midfielder Anto Gonzales after a yearlong loan to Loyola where he was an integral part of the Sparks’ success last season.

There’s talent here without a doubt. Their pick up of Fil-German Manu Saubach was huge for them during the UFL Cup. The industrious OJ Clarino will help while Jinggoy Valmayor is still in the UAAP. Clarino will help the strike force of Ariel Zerrudo Jr. and Andoni Santos. Cañedo is perhaps the best free kick specialist outside Loyola’s Mark Hartmann.

They have an elite lineup. If they can find their bearings early on they will challenge for the title.

A twist in promotion and relegation
By the league’s end, the team that finished last will be relegated to the UFL’s second division while the champion from that level will be promoted. However, it doesn’t end there, the ninth placer of Division One will take on the Division Two second placer in a two-game aggregate format. Should the Division One side win, it remains in the top-flight group. Should the Division Two side upset the top tier club, they get promoted at their victim’s expense.

With all the changes, clubs more than ever cannot afford to have an off day. The possibility of having two teams relegated means no one can sit pretty and coast because no one wants to be in the relegation zone. One key to any club’s chances it fielding a deep lineup. The UFL will not brook any stoppage in play this league tournament even for the national team. That means matches will go on sans their national players. Winning early is paramount because clubs without its core of Azkals can make a run when the national team will be playing.

So at the end of the day, a deep lineup can just change the equation of what promises to be an exciting league season.

5peat coffee

Black coffee anyone?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ateneo defeats UE, 2-0, remains atop UAAP Football standings

Ateneo defeats UE, 2-0, remains atop UAAP Football standings
by rick olivares

The Ateneo Men’s Football Team needed a win after an unlikely scoreless draw with UST. Facing them were the UE Red Warriors who they drew with t start Season 75.

Following La Salle’s huge 2-1 in over FEU a week earlier, and a pair of 1-0 wins by UP over UST and FEU over NU during Sunday’s matches, Ateneo needed the three full points to stay atop of the rankings.

And they responded with their second multi-goal game in three matches, a 2-0 win over UE that was both convincing and at once a little disappointing. From kickoff they were clearly the much better side. UE never had a shot at the goal as Ateneo’s defense stopped them cold. On offense, they threatened on so many occasions including one where all Val Calvo needed to do was slot it home as the keeper was clearly beaten. But instead, he volleyed wide.

However in the space of a couple of minutes, Ateneo got its goals, first from a shot from Philip Gozali from outside the box that dipped under a diving UE keeper Lendon Clores in the 43rd minute. Barely a minute later, midfielder Mikko Mabanag latched onto a forward ball and dribbled past one defender before sending Clores the wrong way for a 2-0 lead.

There were more opportunities in the second half but the poor finishing kept the tally at the same count.

Ateneo has stayed on top of the standings since the second match of the season – an incredible turn around from their second to the last place finish last season (3-0-7). Even that finish didn’t tell exactly what how they fared. They were tough to beat and when they did lose it was in the final 10 minutes of play.

So how did this turnaround happen?

Here it is in my opinion having watched them closely since forever.

The ascendancy of JP Merida as head coach
Merida, who played on Ateneo’s three-peat team from 2004-06, has taken a team that was demoralized not just from losing but also its struggles with their coaching staff, and turned them around. His leadership and coaching style gave them a confidence.

Their defense
They’ve got a solid back four with John Christopher Aw Young, Gico Noel, Wilson Marcelino, and Migs Tuazon. They do not make too many mistakes and cover opponents well. The longer they play together they better they get. Plus, they’ve got two solid goalkeepers in Yu Murayama and Nick O’Donnell. Murayama, maybe because he is a super senior (he stopped school for a couple of years before coming back), is in great form. Not only is he superbly conditioned but mentally, he’s there as well. O’Donnell, got some terrific experience a couple of years ago while playing behind Ref Cuaresma and Gabby Vorbeck with Loyola. Both have alternated at goal with every game but with the tournament in its homestretch, maybe Murayama should get more playing time.

And oh, they’ve only conceded on goal in nine matches. Second-running FEU has scored 32 goals but has surrendered six.

Good recruits and the return of some terrific players
There’s Nick O’Donnell, Carlo Liay, and Eric Figueroa. For the longest time, we couldn’t get any. When we did, we lost them to academics. But they were few as the program wasn’t doing so well since 2008.

Others have finally found their place. Enzo Bonoan and Jacobo Lorenzo, great high school players had underachieved in the seniors ranks. Both have come back this season with greater resolve and more confidence. And it shows.

And there's a lot of homegrown pride in this squad from Murayama to Lorenzo to Mabanag all the way to Figueroa.

The play of Mikko Mabanag
Last Sunday, UE’s JP Villamor knocked Mabanag out of bounds. A year ago, he would have charged at the Red Warrior and thrown some punches if not invectives. Mabanag (who I have been also counseling with advice since his senior year in high school), has finally listened and allowed his game to do the talking. Since he was named Best Midfielder in last year’s Clear Dream Match, he has played incredibly well darting here and there for passes and goals. Former national coach Zoran Dordevic scouted Mabanag for several games and couldn’t wait to put him in uniform. His play has been every bit as important for Ateneo.

Will Ateneo win this year’s UAAP Men’s Football title? It still is a wide-open race if you ask me. If they make the finals, that will increase their confidence. 

Honorio Banario vs. Eric Kelly: A Pinoy superfight at One FC

Honorio Banario stalks and gets ready to pound on a fallen Andrew Benibe.
This appears in

Banario-Kelly: A Pinoy superfight
by rick olivares

The world will have to wait and see if Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. decide to stop talking with their mouths and more with their fists.

In the meantime, the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia will have to watch two of the baddest men alive try to pound each other into submission or knock the other into oblivion.

Honorio “The Rock” Banario and Eric “The Natural” Kelly take on each other in the main event of the One Fighting Championship: Return of Warriors this coming Saturday, February 2, at the Stadium Putra at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It is the first time that a Filipino fighter, let alone two of them, will headline Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts organization. And Banario and Kelly will be fighting for the One FC Featherweight Championship. 

Banario is the current URCC Lightweight Champion and is a member of the legendary Team Lakay where he trains alongside fellow URCC champions like Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and under head coach Mark Sangiao. Banario’s style is Wushu, an ancient Chinese martial art whose practitioners are recognizable by their sideways stance and diverse range of strikes.

Going into the fight with Kelly, Banario sports a 7-1 record yet despite his striking credentials, five of his seven wins were by submission. He has powerful takedowns and his versatility always keeps opponents guessing what his next move would be.

When the opportunity to fight for the One FC title presented itself, Banario didn’t hesitate to sign up for it even if it meant going up against a fellow Filipino. “I think that it's a positive thing. It's essentially a superfight between two champions,” said Banario during a pause in his training in Baguio. “I would have preferred to be representing the Philippines against a fighter from another country but Eric Kelly has relocated to Malaysia so I have to represent Team Lakay and the Philippines and bring the belt back to the country.”

It isn’t simply ethnicity that Banario looks at, after all, he’s been fighting Filipinos also at home in the URCC. “I want to prove that I'm the best in Asia and I can only do that by beating all comers in the division,” he explained. “If it wasn't Eric Kelly, it would be another tough opponent who could be smaller or bigger than me. But at the end of the day, I just need to go in there and show what I can do.”

With recent loses by fellow Team Lakay fighters Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon, Banario hopes that a win in Kuala Lumpur will bring back some luster and confidence to his fight club. “We are a very close team and when one of us loses, the entire team feels the pain that our brother is feeling. We will bounce back from this and come back stronger than ever. It begins when I bring back the featherweight title bout and I'm sure the team would be delighted for me.”

Kelly is undefeated at 7-0, yet Banario isn’t intimidated at all. “I have trained with Eric Kelly before though and I know certain nuances of his fighting game and I would look to exploit that. I am steadily improving to eventually peak at the right time. I'm gradually decreasing my weight but I'm not too focused on that right now. We still have two weeks to train hard and improve my overall game and cardio. I'll start focusing solely on my weight when it's closer to weigh-in day.”

“You can expect the best version of me you have witnessed. I will come prepared for a brawl and at the end of the night, you will see "The Rock" leaving with his hand held high and with the championship belt around his waist.”

One FC: Return of Warriors will be a historic moment for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because for the first time ever, a One FC Featherweight World Champion will be crowned. Since One FC’s sold-out launch in 2011, fans and fighters have been eagerly waiting the crowning of a One FC Featherweight World Champion from the ever-growing talent pool in Asia, and next Saturday, the wait will be over. 

One FC fans can also look forward to see the return of Asia’s top fighters, as well as rising stars Vuyisile Colossa, Lowen Tynanes, Shinichi Kojima, Rey Docyogen, Gianni Subba and Adam Kayoom.


More on this match up in an article I wrote about Eric Kelly.

PFF Smart National Club Championship semifinals Green Archers Utd vs Pasargad Missed opportunities and a meltdown in composure.

Missed opportunities and a meltdown in composure.
Green Archers let slip away a magnificent opportunity to grab the second finals slot so Pasargad took it. But at what cost?
story and pics by rick olivares


It’s just as important as having skilled and talented players or even having the benefit of superior coaching.

Pasargad, perhaps, a walking, talking roller-coaster-of-emotions-ride of a football club, is as talented as any other club in the land. Yet their constant complaints, barbs, and theatrics sometimes get the better of them.

Reigning in their emotions, Pasargad took their lumps early on against a slick passing Green Archers United side. Chieffy Caligdong and Jovanie Simpron scored within a minute of each other.

Caligdong, who has become the club’s leader in no time at all, showed the way to the PFF Smart National Club Championship Finals with an incredible goal in the 19th minute. Taking a cross from Tating Pasilan who was on the left wing, Caligdong controlled the ball then from 30 yards out blasted a screamer towards the PSG goal. The ball darted towards keeper Reza Ataei who looked to make an easy grab of the ball. Only it bounced a foot in front of him and bounced over his head for a goal.

A minute later, Jovanie Simpron reminded everyone of his once feared goal scoring prowess when he was with FEU and the national team by doubling the lead. Sporting a 2-nil lead, Green Archers United looked not only in control but 70 minutes away from joining fellow La Salle-based club, Ceres in the PFF Smart National Championship game.

Prior to the semifinals of the PFF Smart National Club Championship, Green Archers United consultant Hans Smit joked about his side meeting Ceres, their Bacolod-based La Sallian counterparts in the finals. “It’s an opportunity to show how good the La Salle football program is,” said Smit during the press conference that preceded the final four matches.

Ceres kept its part of the bargain with a masterful and stunning 3-1 conquest of Kaya but for GAU, up 2-0, that was the beginning of the end.

PSG, instead of bowing their heads down got right back into the match with a goal barely a minute after Simpron’s goal. Midfielder Charles Ujam, not the skillful at the position but a determined player nonetheless, corralled a cross from the left side. With no defender in sight, Ujam booted the ball in as GAU’s Martin Villaflor vainly tried to get to the undefended right side.

Four minutes later, Reza Amirkhizan equalized by scoring inside the box after winning the scrum in front of the goal.

In a thrilling six-minute span, four goals were scored by both GAU and PSG that had the crowd of several thousand at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium roaring.

It was Green Archers who were now reeling as Pasargad pressed their attack. The Esmail Sedigh-coached side lost its momentum when Emmanuel MBata was booked a second yellow card by referee Wilfredo Bermejo (a horribly wrong call if you ask me). That meant that PSG would have to play the rest of the game with 10 men.

Only then did Green Archers find their second wind with the opposition a man down. But Pasargad’s defense held.

At times, it looked like PSG defenders Francis Sumudivilla and Angelo Marasigan would give way to the pressure from GAU especially their wingers Arnie Pasinabo or even Pasilan but they held. But perhaps the most inspiration of PSG was the strong play of midfielder Hamed Hajimehdi. With his futsal background, Hajimehdi danced around defenders and broke tackles. He found teammates with through balls when there should have been none. In short, he kept GAU from completely loading up on offense and forced them back some.

The match went into extra periods and PSG, besieged much of the time, kept their composure.

It was Green Archers United’s second consecutive match in extra periods. They previously ditched Pachanga late in the second period of extra time with a Caligdong goal that should be celebrated for its extreme level of difficulty. This time, however, they were unable to score.

Thus the match went into a penalty shootout, the first of the tournament.

Caligdong was the first penalty taker and he sent Ataei diving right but placed the ball to the opposite side. Hajimehdi sent Villaflor in the opposite direction to equalize. And this is where the game entered the twilight zone.

Pasilan took the spot kick but Ataei blocked the shot eliciting a massive celebration on the PSG side. But linesman Grant Rojas called for a retake as Ataei left his line. Gifted with another chance, Pasilan still missed as he hit the post while a collective groan of disbelief emanated from his side.

Francis Sumudivilla, who had withstood the assault from the right flank by GAU, was steadier this time as he made good on his spot kick; 2-1, Pasargad.

Elle Cagayanan, a late sub for GAU, took a shot to the left but Ataei saved it. With a massive advantage to them, PSG’s Mark Anthony Fernandez looked to convert but Villaflor saved his shot to the left.

Tommy Escoltero, another former Stallion player now ensconced with GAU, fired right but Ataei saved his third consecutive shot. Thinking it was all over, Taher, followed by Ataei took of their shirts and celebrated at the sidelines. However, Green Archers had one more penalty taker in Ayi Aryee. If he converted and Villaflor saved the next shot, both teams would be back to zero. Bermejo promptly docked them another yellow card that saw them both sent off. This time it was Pasargad that stood and sat aghast at the turn of events. In a prime position to move on, if did move on, they will now be without MBata, Ujam, Taher, and Ataei on account of two yellow cards.

Pasargad now had lost MBata, Rezai and Taher. As they had used up all their substitutes, they were now down to eight players. Green Archers United contested this as they ascertained that it was previously agreed in the manager’s meeting that a team needed nine to play. While tournament officials were checking the tournament rules as well as FIFA’s Laws of the Game, Bermejo surprisingly allowed the shootout to continue. Aryee, with Hajimehdi now playing goalkeeper, missed his shot and Pasargad celebrated a second time.

A stunned and disconsolate Green Archers United side sat on their bench. Many shook their heads in disbelief. They had let a game that was theirs to win slip away. Given a second chance, they still muffed it.

Pasargad’s celebration was somewhat muted because four key players – MBata, Taher, Ataei, and Ujam will all be out for the title game against Ceres on account of two yellow cards. For much of the game, they played with a lot of focus and stayed composed, but with the game in the balance, they took of their shirts that eventually saw them get tossed.

“It’s a win,” sighed PSG head coach Esmail Sedigh who summed up the bizarre match. “But somehow it doesn’t feel like one.’

PSG players in varying poses of anxiety during the penalty shootout with Green Archers United. The score was 2-1 in their favor when I took this.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ceres books Smart Club Championship finals at the expense of Kaya

Ceres books Smart Club Championship finals at the expense of Kaya
by rick olivares

“Mallari!” screamed Kaya head coach Maur Rozen. “Eddie!”

The Uruguayan coach spotted Ceres winger Jayson Panhay racing up unmarked on the left flank as Kaya’s defense was looking for an attack to come up the middle or the right.

Ceres defender Hyung Min Sim surveyed his options then quickly launched a forward pass to Panhay who only had center back Masa Omura to beat. Panhay ditched him and that forced Kaya keeper Saba Garmaroudi to rush out.

From a 45° angle, Panhay launched a delicate chip to the far post for the opening goal in the 24th minute. What was perhaps even more mortifying was the fact that the other Kaya defenders – Dario Dakic and Junior Muñoz failed to cover the line when Garmaroudi rushed out.

That wasn’t the first that Rozen warned of the danger lurking from the wings. On two separate occasions before Panhay’s run, he called out to Mallari and to forward Eric Dagroh but they didn’t hear his admonitions.

Seven minutes after Panhay’s goal, Byeong Jun Yoon collected a punch out to hammer a shot from 18 yards out to double Ceres’ lead.

That almost put the fight out of Kaya that was smarting from the near loss of its entire back four of the last three UFL tournaments. Former team captain and long time fixture at center back Ali Borromeo has still not fully recovered from his knee injury. Anton Del Rosario just got back from his own injury and was not listed for the tournament. Centerback Jason Sabio is back in Alabama working to get his degree from law school. Adrian Semblat is now with Nomads while Nico Bolzico isn’t even listed.

Kaya came out from the halftime break with new resolve as they had Ceres on their heels. The club’s new game changer since the UFL Cup has been speedy midfielder OJ Porteria whose dazzling balls skills allow him to break down defenders. He did it to Loyola and he found his way down the right goal line to fire a cross that Chris Greatwich blasted home in the 49th minute.

Kaya had four excellent chances to equalize but Kross Ubiam, Dario Dakic, and Greatwich missed their shots.

Ceres mostly on the defensive the entire second half got their second wind when Omura tripped up a player inside the box. Gun Hee Choi sent Garmaroudi the wrong way to give them an insurmountable 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes to play. The penalty shot sent Ceres to the finals of the PFF Smart National Club Championship at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in a most impressive manner.

Ceres has been taking names on its way to local club football immortality. In the Round of 16, they dispatched UFL Cup champion with a stunning 1-0 win. They followed that up with an equally impressive ambush of Global with a similar score line before facing Kaya in the finals.

The Bacolod-based club’s run caused a huge dent on the armor of invincibility of the Metro Manila sides and Ceres accomplished it while playing Imperial Manila’s game.

Ceres is normally entirely composed of homegrown talent. When they decided to participate in the tournament, they picked up key Korean and English players to beef up their squad. Along with a couple of UFL cast offs Jason Cordova, Jung Mook Kim, and Yoon (Stallion) as well as Lemuel Unabia (Green Archers United). The latter three are all starters for Ceres and have had an impact with the Negros side.

Kaya’s aggressive play in the opening minutes didn’t give Ceres the run of the field as they did against Global in the quarterfinals. But the final pass to the forwards was wanting and eventually hurt Kaya. The sudden substitution of Dagroh for Kenshiro Daniels hurt their aggressiveness up front. Although Daniels acquitted himself well in the second half, his lack of experience couldn’t get him past Cordova who marked him well.

One of Kaya’s strengths in recent years was the speed and aggressiveness of Prince Mark Boley. But he is no longer in a Kaya uniform as the club has undergone a facelift.

However, there is promise for Rozen’s team. In the meantime, Ceres will get to fulfill theirs as they are in the finals of the PFF Smart National Club Championship against a depleted Pasargad side. In the main game of the semifinals double header, Pasargad came back from two goals down to forge a penalty shootout with Green Archers United to come away 2-1 winners.

 With Danny Claxton and Peter Long after their stunning 3-1 win over Kaya to advance to the finals of the 2013 PFF Smart National Club Championships.